Nearly four weeks into the new “Plan to Save DAYS,” Days of our Lives is delivering on its promise for show that’s heavy on romance, mystery, suspense, action and making the show more recognizable.
It’s been months since I last wrote a piece editorializing my thoughts about the soaps, in part due to a lack of inspiration and apathy towards material on-screen. Days of our Lives was an unmitigated disaster for most of this year, and given the inability to make any substantive change for 6 months due to the production schedule, it didn’t make sense for me to comment week in and week out about the poor creative state of the show. Luckily all of that has changed as the show moved on from the work of former head writers Gary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell, and embarked on the steady path of course correction since mid-August.
It’s easy for creative teams and producers to examine the work of someone else and fix what isn’t working. There’s a reason why most transitional periods between head writers leads to a surge in positive reaction from fans and critics alike. The biggest challenge lies in whether the new creative has the wherewithal and foresight to acknowledge what isn’t working from their own material and jettison it before it becomes an unfixable albatross that sinks their vision. Days of our Lives’ new head writers, Dena Higley and Josh Griffith, along with newly elevated co-executive producer Albert Alarr, examined the canvas they inherited and made concerted effort to fix what was wrong, while being confident in the notion that DAYS in its then-form wasn’t the show fans wanted.
It’s hard to take executive producer Ken Corday’s “Plan to Save DAYS” talk seriously given the many, many, many times he’s laid out his plans only for it to falter soon after. Too often he’s taken radical shifts in direction that was jarring – whether it was double downing on the faces of the past or jettisoning them to invest in the future; it was a big enough shift that fundamentally changed the face of the show. What makes this change different than the others, at least thus far, is that it’s change I can believe in.
Change is in the air at DAYS, albeit on sixth month delay, but it’s change nonetheless. I took an extended break from the series in the spring, vowing not to watch until the lead up to the new writers’ material. Around mid-August, I marathoned episodes saved in my DVR from July 20 to August 22 so I could be knowledgeable about the differences in production and creative once the new regime took over. It’s one thing to know what’s going to happen due to advanced spoilers, it’s another to see it play out on your screen.
The “feel” of the show has changed for the better. Scenes are longer, allowing for more investment in the performances and story being told; there’s more references DAYS history without it coming off as overdone exposition; characters have purpose and most of importantly, the show is recognizable again. No, it’s not the returns of Steve “Patch” Johnson (Stephen Nichols) and Bo Brady (Peter Reckell) that caused this – fan favorites have come and gone – it’s in the way the show presents itself. Days of our Lives has rediscovered its identity as the multi-generational drama that mixed classic genre traditions with a modern flair.
One of the first episodes of the new regime focused on re-establishing romance and history. John (Drake Hogestyn) and Marlena (Deidre Hall), sidelined for far too long in the miscast role of ancillary characters, began their path to reconciliation. Whereas Hope stood at a crossroads over her past with Bo or her future with Aiden (Daniel Cosgrove). It was an interesting parallel to draw forth, as it set the foundation for the next series of stories to come. John, Marlena and Hope are just a few of the series’ most iconic characters, involved in iconic romances that have stood the test of time. Bo and Hope and John and Marlena are the couples which other shows attempted to recreate. The return of those three to the forefront of storylines the best, most organic way to set the tone heading into November. Their relationships and ties to others will serve as branches that connect to other stories.
Bringing back fan favorites for a cameo or short stint that serves no other purpose than to say they came back is cheap, short-sighted and not the way to celebrate or honor decades of history. For the long-term, loading the canvas with familiar faces and trotting them out once every couple of months won’t lure back lapsed viewers; and overexposing them and their massive history isn’t necessarily the best way to appeal to new viewers either. There has to be balance, and that seems to be on the agenda for GriffLey. What better way to invest in the future than to reach into the shows’ rich history and bring forth the next generation of characters that’ll hopefully anchor the series in their same way their parents and grandparents have before them?
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